By John LaForge
German and U.S. nuclear weapons resisters continue their quixotic jousting match with the criminal justice system. Emphasis on the word criminal.
After dozens of “go-in” actions against the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons at Germany’s Büchel air base, and following scores of trial court convictions for “trespassing” at the NATO base, twenty individual appeals to Germany’s high-level Constitutional Court have now been rejected without comment. The high court has simply upheld the rulings of the Regional Court in Koblenz finding the resisters guilty. Koblenz judges have repeatedly found that secret arrangements between the U.S. and Germany have legalized the shipment to and deployment of U.S. nuclear bombs at Büchel.
Nuclear abolitionists, including Nukewatch’s John LaForge and many others, have argued that binding U.S. and German treaty law forbids any and all such transfer of nuclear weapons (known as nuclear proliferation), and consequently that nonviolent actions attempting to interfere with such violations are justifiable acts of “crime prevention.”
As of September, a total of six nuclear resisters have filed applications or appeals with the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France, arguing that the convictions were in error. The ECHR, made up of 42 judges, one from every state party to the European Convention on Human Rights, has a rigid set of standards to be met to win a hearing, and defendants must first have exhausted all the means of redress in their state and federal courts.
In LaForge’s appeal to the ECHR, filed in May, the court has indicated some interest in the case, but has not yet formally decided to hear it. In June, the court wrote that one signature and one document were missing from the application. “Normally this would mean that your application would be rejected,” the court said. “However, in view of the particular circumstances of the case, you are requested, on an exceptional basis, to complete your file” and supply the needed information by August 7.
After receiving the required materials, the Legal Secretary wrote on October 9, “The court will deal with the case … as soon as the course of business permits.”
In late September, John joined German anti-nuclear bicyclists in a public protest ride between the two high courts. Beginning with a rally at the doors of the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Germany, sixteen riders spent two days cycling to Strasbourg and the gates of the ECHR, just across the Rhine River border separating Germany and France.
In front of both court complexes, group members spoke of the increasing dangers and legal nihilism of nuclear sharing, and a small troupe performed a theatrical piece called “Wake Up Justice!” in which a sleepy, inattentive “Madame Justice,” portrayed by Lies Welker (pictured outside the Constitutional Court), was woken by the shouts and cries of citizens demanding that she do something about the threats to humanity posed by the nuclear war planners.